Vanderbilt 67, Fresno State 59 – Center Liam Robbins tied a tournament record with eight blocks to go along with a team-high 20 points as the Commodores (3-3) bounced back from an opening night defeat.
Guard Tyrin Lawrence added 19 points and forward Myles Stute scored 16 with four 3-pointers, helping Vanderbilt recover from losing a 11-point lead in the second half.
With Robbins, a 7-foot fifth-year senior, controlling the paint defensively, the Commodores limited the Bulldogs (1-5) to 34.8 percent shooting from the field and Fresno could convert on only 4 of 23 3-pointers.
“This was really a gutsy win from our group,” Vanderbilt Coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “It wasn’t a perfect game, it was a little bit of an ugly game, but we’d rather win ugly than lose pretty any night.
“Liam came in and really protected the rim for us. He had eight blocks and he probably affected five or six more around the rim. We were fortunate that he played at a high level tonight and that a number of guys played at a high level.”
Guard Jemarl Baker led Fresno with 22 points and seven assists and forwards Isaih Moore and Eduardo Andre each scored 10 with 12 rebounds. It was Moore’s second consecutive double-double in the tournament.
Vanderbilt held a 44-33 lead early in the second half after a 3-pointer by Colin Smith, but Baker sparked a rally with a 3-pointer, two jumpers and two free throws to give Fresno a 51-48 lead with 8:16 left.
“You always start with your attitude and your mentality,” Fresno Coach Justin Hutson said. “Once you get there, it’s not enough sometimes. We went big and we went zone and they missed some shots.”
Vanderbilt responded and regained the lead at 54-51 after 3-pointers by Stute and Lawrence, who then hit on consecutive drives and got two free throws from Lawrence, two by Stute and one by Smith as the Commodores kicked the lead up to eight with 41 seconds left.